Chicago – The highlight of the winter auto show season is the annual Chicago Auto Show each February. Sure, the temperature outside might be in the single digits and the “Windy City” is living up to its name, but inside the McCormick Place is a warm and wonderful arena for America’s Largest Auto Show.
Chicago loves a good party and this annual event is the hottest ticket in the town with dozens of parties, a gala opening celebration, live broadcasts on all the TV stations, hundreds of social media mavens pounding their phone and several hundred automotive media attending two days of manufacturer press conferences. It was also a great time to sample some great new cars and a variety of Chicago’s signature food, the deep-dish pizza.
Here’s what caught our eye a the 2015 Chicago Auto Show:
Nissan: While we’re not racing fans, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo racecar which made a world debut at the show. The car defies tradition with a front engine, and front-wheel drive. What’s equally interesting is that two of its new drivers have advanced their racing careers from PlayStation game boxes and the GT Academy rather than working their way up through traditional racing series. Nissan also showed the 2016 370Z Nismo Roadster.
Kia: Debuting in Chicago, the Kia Trail’ster is the first all-wheel drive application of the popular Kia Soul crossover. Using a turbocharged gas engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor at the rear axle for a combined 220-hp, this Soul is as at home in the mountains as it is in the city. Kia calls it a near-future concept so we expect to see it in showrooms in the “near future.”
Honda: Honda pulled the wraps off its 2016 Pilot with a more sculptured looking mid-size three-row SUV. We thought it has a strong family resemblance to the Honda CRV which took home the coveted Motor Trend SUV of the Year Award for 2015. The new Pilot is loaded with new technologies and upscale features. During their press conference, they also showed a sketch of the upcoming Ridgeline pickup which takes on a more traditional pickup look with a Honda flare.
Buick: Buick didn’t have any press conference but it was chance for us to see a couple of interesting new models, the Cascada, a 2+2 soft top that debuts in early 2016, and the elegant full-size Avenir luxury sedan concept which if built would become the brand’s flagship.
Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi appears to be on the comeback trail displaying a concept CC-PHEV that showcased future Mitsubishi technologies and design themes. There was a rumor that Mitsubishi might be bringing back the Montero SUV to the U.S. market. Plans call for a new version of the Outlander to debut at the New York show in April.
Chrysler: The Chrysler 200 was named the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Family Vehicle of the Year at the opening breakfast of the show. The awards continued when the FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Alpha Romeo 4C and the Dodge Charger were awarded MotorWeek Television’s Driver’s Choice Awards. Chrysler also had a fascinating virtual reality demonstration of the manufacturing process for the 200. Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat were offering test drives in many of their vehicles on a small track right on the show floor.
Toyota: Refreshed version of the refreshed Toyota Avalon, sporty Camry and Corolla Special Editions had world debuts at the show. We thought the flagship Avalon was the most exciting with its stylish new looks, enhanced performance and innovative technologies. Toyota also had the “Camry Experience” test track giving show-goers time behind the wheel of the new Camry.
There were several other brands with displays at the show, but they didn’t have significant changes or announcements. Now in its 107th year, the Chicago Auto Show runs through February 22. For more information on the show or the individual vehicles there go online to http://www.chicagoautoshow.com/
Read the rest of our notes at Part 2